An important victory for IT employees’ unions

The Karnataka State IT/ITeS Employees Union has won an important victory for IT sector employees. It went to the Bangalore Labour Court on behalf of an employee of Wipro Technologies, who was forced to resign. The Court has ordered that the employee be reinstated with continuity of service and full back wages.

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Not so long back, a large number of IT employees used to look down upon the concept of trade unions. Thanks to the constant propaganda against unionising in mainstream media and cinema, unions have been turned into symbols of inefficiency and as forces working against development, which is a far cry from the truth. These attitudes prevented the coming together of employees under a common banner to collectively bargain for their rights. It strengthened the hands of the inhuman managements too, who could arbitrarily fire employees and increase the work timings or come up with employee-unfriendly rules (Have experienced this first-hand at Infosys under a petty monster who is now a hate-mongering flag-waver of the saffron fascists).

But, in recent years, atleast a few workers in the IT sector have realised how self-defeating this hatred for unions can be. This is not a phenomenon limited just to India. Earlier this year, the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) was formed at Google. Adecco, a Google subcontracting firm, banned workers from talking about wages and bonuses. The company also took action against an employee who posted pro-union messages on Facebook. The newly-formed Union took up her case and Google was forced to arrive at a settlement and make a statement to workers that they are allowed to discuss pay and working conditions.

But, it is not an easy fight. Two months back, an effort by employees at an Amazon warehouse to form a union failed after a majority of workers voted against the move, despite the horrible working conditions there. But, yesterday Teamsters union, one of the biggest labour unions in US, passed a resolution to support and fund Amazon employees in their effort to form a union.

The union winds are blowing in the media industry too. Many media houses take strong, righteous editorial stands in workers’ rights, but are not so keen on having unions in their own organisation. Earlier this month, Condé Nast agreed to its first contract with unionised employees at the New Yorker, music website Pitchfork and technology publication Ars Technica. The employees here will get wage increases of around 10% as well as other benefits. This was won after two years of talks and after a threat to strike.

So, yes, shout down the ones who speak against unions, either due to their class interests or naivety (sit down, talk to and educate the latter). Everyone from gig workers to journalists to IT employees and bank employees have to unionise for their own good, especially at a time when managements everywhere are using the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason to fire employees and make large pay cuts, even when there is no fall in profits. The media unions are still weak in India and haven’t been able to force companies to take back employees who were arbitrarily fired.

More power to Karnataka State IT/ITeS Employees Union